Now that Thanksgiving is over, holiday shopping has officially commenced. How many of you were out there Thanksgiving night or predawn on Black Friday? Plastic bags, wrapping paper, extra gas in the car for all those trips to the mall..this time of the year can be difficult when you are trying to be mindful of all the waste you produce. Be of good cheer though, because with careful planning you can still make beautiful holiday memories without all the excess. Try some of these green shopping tips:

Keep your mileage in check. Know what you are buying the loved ones on your list ahead of time so you are not driving back and forth to the mall constantly in the next couple of weeks. Even better, car pool with a friend or take public transportation together. Make a day of it and get some lunch. Shopping is always more fun with company.

Avoid gifts with a lot of packaging. Although you might feel the pressure to buy the newest and biggest toys and gadgets, think carefully about all the packaging and potential environmental hazards that might come with these products, especially plastic toys and electronics. Try gently used items at a thrift store instead or choose items like books that are not surrounded with a lot of packing material. When you can, choose items that are made from recycled material.

Bring your own shopping bags. When you are rushing around on a Saturday, trying to squeeze in some shopping between the kids' activities, it can be hard to remember to bring along your reusable shopping bags, but this little step can make a big difference. The Clean Air Council reports that approximately one billion shopping bags end up in U.S. landfills every year.

Order online in bulk only. Online shopping will be a lot of gift-giver's savior this holiday season, but when you order in several small shipments ,you end up with a lot more packing material and wasted energy spent on transportation than is really necessary.  Plan carefully so that you can order as much as you can at one time so that everything is shipped together.

Make your own wrapping paper. Get creative and pull out that glitter and leftover drawing paper and brown paper bags to express your love for your family and friends with some customized wrapping. They will love all the extra effort you put into it and you can feel good about being less wasteful.

Want to support sustainable businesses while shopping? Check out mymilkcrate.co for a listing of local green businesses and services.

To learn more about other local, sustainable businesses, resources and events, visit mymilkcrate.co. Have your own green living tips you want to share? E-mail us.